Jesus Before the Sanhedrin – Matthew 26:64 – #4
Daniel 7:13-14 – Israel as the Enemy of God – The Sanhedrin as The Little Horn
Our previous article ended with this paragraph:
So, Jesus’ identification of himself as the Son of Man has tremendous theological implications. And it also means that he, the Son of Man, was telling the Sanhedrin that he was identifying THEM, as the Little Horn of Daniel 7! After all, he was / is the Son of Man, and there he was, in the days of the fourth empire, addressing the persecutors. Furthermore, they are the ones speaking great swelling words against Messiah, persecuting him, and they would soon persecute his followers, Jesus clearly identified them as the Little Horn!
This assessment should not surprise us. Scholars have recognized that during his ministry, and particularly in his application of the book of Daniel, Jesus applied Daniel in such a way at to make Israel the pagan enemy of God! It is interesting, however, that the commentators do not develop this, except in short comments. However, if Jesus was identifying the Sanhedrin as the Little Horn, the implications of that identification for understanding of texts such as 2 Thessalonians 2 and the Revelation 13 are profound. Indeed, the implications for understanding Israel as the pagan enemy and the Sanhedrin as the Little Horn challenges all futurist views of eschatology.
N. T. Wright, says that Jesus, “Made the book of Daniel thematic for his whole vocation. He understood it to be referring to the great climax in which YHWH would defeat the fourth world empire and vindicate his suffering people. He projected the notion of evil empire onto the present Jerusalem regime, and identified himself and his movement with the people who were to be vindicated.” (N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, (Minneapolis; Fortress, 1996), 598).
Tom Holland adds this, commenting on Romans 11:5f, and Israel’s rejection of Jesus at that time:
In seeing the Jews who believed in Jesus as a remnant, Paul makes a comparison with the remnant that refused to worship Baal. The logical conclusion of Paul’s argument is that he considers Judaism to be a pagan religion akin to Baal worship– a concept that would have horrified the orthodox Jews. It was pagan because it sought to demand allegiance to the Jewish people in the face of the claims of their Messiah. …. Judaism is a religious system that has rejected the Messiah. In so doing she has become nothing less than pagan.” (Tom Holland, A Biblical Theological Commentary: Romans The Divine Marriage, (Eugene, Or; Pickwick Publications, 2011), 372).
R. T. France adds his voice, “Jesus identified he and his disciples as the true Israel, and therefore transferred to Old Israel the identification of the pagan persecuting power, “In rejecting Jesus, the Jews no less than the pagan empires, were the opponents of the kingdom of God.” (R. T. France, Jesus and O.T. (Grand Rapids; Baker, 1971), 147).
Likewise, Greg Beale says, commenting on Daniel 2: “Unbelieving Israel has become identified with pagan kingdoms and is portrayed as judged along with them.” (Greg Beale, The Temple and the Church’s Mission, (Downer’s Grove, Ill.; IVP, Apollos, 2004), 185).
Finally, while Brant Pitre does not overtly identify the Little Horn as the Sanhedrin, I suggest that his comments would lead us to that conclusion. He sees Jesus’ prediction of his coming on the clouds of heaven in power and great glory -the citation of Daniel 7 before the Sanhedrin, as the prediction of his coming: “His arrival will bring about a cosmic tumult that will signal the destruction of the city of Jerusalem, already inaugurate by the Abomination of desolation. But this destruction will be followed by salvation…” (2005, 348).
But of course, that is not all!
By citing Daniel 7 and applying it to himself as the one coming in judgment as the Ancient of Days, he was also identifying the Sanhedrin as the Little Horn. As stated, this has incredible implications for our understanding of 2 Thessalonians 2, 1 & 2 John, and Revelation – indeed, the entire eschatological narrative. (Note that in 2 Thessalonians 2, the Man of Sin would “sit in the temple of God”– agreeing with the identification of the Sanhedrin as the Little Horn and Man of Sin).
To counter our suggestion, it would seem that a detractor would have to prove that Jesus was not identifying himself as the Son of Man in fulfillment of Daniel 7.
They would have to be able to divorce the idea of the coming of the Son of Man on the clouds in power and great glory from the judgment motif.
They would have to be able to show that Jesus was not in any way connecting the persecutorial Sanhedrin with the Danielic vision.
In effect, anyone divorcing Matthew 26:64 and Jesus’ identification of the Sanhedrin as the Little Horn, must divorce it entirely from the context of Daniel and the consistent use of the coming of the Son of Man on the clouds, from any connection with judgment the vindication of his suffering, and by extension, that of his followers. I believe that is a burden of proof that is unable to be demonstrated.
We have more, so stay tuned.